As parents, we all know how we frequently we find ourselves trying to keep ourselves under control in challenging situations and keep our emotions “in check” when our child is acting up. It is useful to know, however, that you can use a simple strategy of realigning your focus on a daily basis in order to help shape and improve your child’s behavior. If you have never heard of the phrase, “Catch him being good,” this is a great example of this. Our natural inclination tends to be toward focusing on the negatives in our child’s behaviors (as well as in many areas of life such as the workplace) and, subsequently, losing our temper to some degree when the behaviors do not subside. In the worse case scenarios, some children unfortunately learn that the best and most predictable way to gain their parents’ attention is through problem behaviors. Thus, they will frequently engage in these types of behaviors to elicit a response and at least get some type of attention, even if it may seem unpleasant to them and counterintuitive to us.
But if we are able to practice, even for one day, acting with an increased focus on the positive, you will most likely see a world of difference. Most current research points to the effectiveness of positive reinforcement to increase behaviors. I would suggest to try for one day evening out the ratio of positive to negative comments you provide to your child. So for some parents, they could tell themselves that for every negative or corrective comment they make, they owe their child one positive comment. This can be as simple as, “Wow, very nice sharing with your brother,” or, “You did great with brushing your teeth!” Most kids like attention and if you provide them with more attention when they are engaging in the behaviors you want, you will get more of those behaviors you want! At first, it may be hard, but as you practice and see how both you and your child will end up feeling better, you will see the snowball effect and start to get in the habit of this more positive approach to parenting.